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These boys take care of Mahasweta Devi's Sabars

Swapna Mohanty | Updated on: 20 January 2018, 18:08 IST

Once listed among the so-called 'Criminal tribes'  Sabars have always been an integral part of the life of the writer-activist and Magsaysay award winner  Mahasweta Devi. She fought all her life on behalf of the Sabars, questioning their  forced status of criminality and  trying to lift them from the throes of utter poverty and alienation.

It was back to square one for Sabars after the passing away of  Mahasweta Devi  on July 28, 2016 . Although the Sabars were  not  being picked up by the local police any more  for  random crime like in the early days, life  changed for them. They were back to where they were: utter poverty and alienation. This was until two young boys decided to  do  something for this underprivileged tribals.

Swarnabha Dey was 18-year-old when he started visiting this village which is about 200 kilometers from Kolkata for teaching Sabars after his college hours, along with his friend Kaundinya Bose.
Over the years, interest turned into a mission for these boys and giving lectures and teaching them became a daily practice.

To know more about the project and how they are going to be the catalysts of change among one of the most underprivileged in the  whole country, we spoke to Swarnabha Dey.

After spending time with them Dey soon realized that nothing would be effective  without a school in the area and hence his friend and he came up with an idea of building a residential school, “It has been six years since I have been going to this village. I have been spending as much time as I can with the residents. Making them understand the importance of education and to an extent, they have understood it. But then we realized that the  main challenge for us  there was setting up a school” he noted.

Six months back the two friends with seven other like-minded persons formed a body named 'Sabar Welfare Trust'. Now the prime task before them was garnering funds for the school.

When asked about the funds, Dey said, “We are trying to channelize money from the Facebook groups. Our target is Rs. 20 lakh and so far we have collected  Rs. 9 lakh. We have already bought the land for the dream school and are planning to build the structure  by the end of the year.”

Acknowledging Nirmal Sabar, the first and only graduate of the Sabar tribe, Dey said, “It is because of the support of Nirmal that we were able to start this trust and manage some funds.

Although Nirmal  is the only graduate from the community and he had good chances of procuring a government job, he preferred staying back in his village educating others and helping them understand the importance of education.” Talking about the proposed residential school, Dey said  the institution would be  residential in nature and would have  classes to the higher secondary level.

First published: 20 January 2018, 18:08 IST